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FAS – or “Fred Astaire Syndrome” as it is more commonly known

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Fred Astaire had just done an audition and he asked his then girlfriend to give him some “feedback”. She was very complimentary and enthused,”I was so enchanted and enthralled by your total mastery of the stage and your dancing is utterly sublime and you look like a god up, there.” She thought a bit and then said, “your lips seemed a little thin. And that whole thing you did with the chair was just incredible – you make it look effortless – you are amazing!”
Astaire: “Thin lips, hey?”

And are we not all just the same? We get feedback every week – generally and most often everything is in the “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” column and we just breeze over those. Suddenly last week, someone ticked the “Not Sure” column when asked if I had made him work hard. It’s been roiling and seething in me ever since.

Truth of the matter is he was required to put together and present a fairly challenging presentation. This was at his request, as he is going to attempt an MBA in September and “I need speak well in thees”. He put in about 20 minutes work the entire week and as a result did an appalling presentation. The only reasonable bit was the one slide he managed to create, which in all honesty, I micro-managed him through. The feedback HE got from his colleagues wasn’t terrific – didn’t understand him, much of what he said was lost on them, not enough detail, not enough information etc etc and he couldn’t answer any questions save saying, “I didn’t consider that aspect.”

Now it’s MY fault? Apparently when his tutor asked him about how he had prepared for the presentation, he said my class was “a nightmare”. I guess learner autonomy isn’t for everyone. I wish him all the luck in the world for his MBA and I’m getting used to being “a nightmare.” Might come in handy.


6 responses »

  1. Some students seem to imagine we will give them injections of language skills when really we can only lead horses to water. The next course chez nous starts on Tuesday next week and this time I am going to stress that presentations must be INTERESTING – on the last course a bunch of Chinese students bored me and themselves comatose for four mind and arse numbing bloody hours. I am not going to let them get away with that this time around.

    • Damn right – I limit slides to PICTURES ONLY and ONLY FIVE. They are also not allowed notes. God, no wonder the poor little dear thought I was a nightmare!(Mind you he couldn’t even rise to two slides without significant prodding and urging and bribing….)

  2. Hi Candy,

    Brilliant blog. It’s nice to read someone saying what I think out loud.

    MBA or pre-MBA students can be tough. I used to have a class of 20, all from Asia, who would not speak. They did stats and I taught them for management. the previous teacher quit as he had literally pulled all his hair out. All they wanted was to read, probably at home. Class time was just ‘tick me on the register’. VERY painful. Eventually the did speak but it was just to offer me a bribe to give them a high mark. My desk was covered in booze which I gave away.

    I remember the final presentations were coma inducing. Long silences, reading of slides and long videos. I still wake in the night shuddering.

    By the way, thanks for linking my Debate and Discussion blog. I’ll try to keep updating it with useful stuff.


    • Hi Phil

      Thanks for stopping by. Always good to know that there are others out there who have the same issues!

      Haven’t checked in to you for a bit – summer is alwaysa bit of a nightmare!


      • I have a couple of strategies for presentations.

        1 is that I give some of the audience cards with typical presentation crimes on them and the hold them up whenever they are committed during the talk. For instance, ‘ERRRRR’ and ‘stop reading the screen’ and ‘too slow’. Another I did once for fun was to take the speakers mobile and pretend to delete a contact every time he said ‘ER’. I teach in France and my school record is 50 Ers in a minute.

  3. Hi Candy,

    Reading the comments, I could picture the 50-ers-a-minute French student stumbling his way through a presentation… similar to the sort you see in comedy sketches on TV?

    I had a go at poster presentations this summer, just pens and big paper to shift the focus away from long boring powerpoint shows. Everyone was given some prompt cards and time to rehearse. The final product was perfect and everyone walked out very happy.

    The class were highly motivated, and appreciated autonomy, which is probably why it worked so well. In this case, I got the credit as the teacher, when it was the students that did all the work. So, I guess it works in two directions.

    I might not be so lucky to get away with it next time though

    Looking forward to your next post,



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